The Science Behind the Science-fiction of Invisibility
The concept of invisibility has captivated the imagination since the dawn of mankind. From cavemen concealing themselves from prey to warriors hiding from an enemy in a Trojan Horse, men have realized the tactical advantage of being unseen in the field. Invisibility has also pervaded pop culture and literature going back to the first stories of vampires disappearing in a puff of smoke! Since then, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and video games like Modern Warfare have cloaked spaceships, become invisible with bewitched blankets, and used more plausible forms of “optical camouflage” cloaking devices to minimize their appearance in the battlefield.
Now, scientists across the globe are working on a variety of cloaking devices ranging from metamaterials to invisibility beams. The applications of which extend beyond battlefield tactics to the automotive industry and aiding doctors in surgery.
Scientists at the Foundation for Research and Technology in Heraklion, Greece are developing an invisibility beam using metamaterials for a project called PHOTOMETA. Metamaterials bend light in unusual directions through microscopic structures.
These microscopic structures embedded in a stealth suit would bend light around them, removing the suit-wearer from the background. Though Photometa cloaking devices are still far off, a more practical application of enables surgeons to bend light around sensitive organs to detect viruses within the body.
Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have created a new cloaking technology: Irradiation. The scientists found that irradiating an opaque object from above with a specific wave pattern can enable light waves to pass through it without any obstruction. The finding opens the door to a whole new approach to active camouflage.
This concept will work with various types of light waves (and even sound waves), according to scientists in the study. Professor Stefan Rotter uses the example of a sugar cube to explain the concept of outwitting light waves.
“Complex materials such as a sugar cube are opaque, because light waves inside them are scattered multiple times,” says Professor Stefan Rotter. “A light wave can enter and exit the object, but will never pass through the medium on a straight line. Instead, it is scattered into all possible directions.” If they irradiate the sugar cube, they can enable the light waves to pass through the cube instead of scattering, making it invisible.
The Rochester Cloak
Scientists at the University of Rochester have developed a cloaking technology that they’ve dubbed The Rochester Cloak. The technology processes a video signal to render objects invisible between the flat screen display and the background.
Toyota recently patented a similar technology that would make A and B pillars invisible (the side pillars supporting your car’s windshield), allowing you to see pedestrians and other objects through the pillar. One advantage of The Rochester Cloak is that allows you to see through objects from a variety of angles.
The Spy Thriller novel, Ghost Trail, employs a similar technology for its fictitious stealth suit, called SCIROC (Self Contained InfraRed Optical Camouflage). The SCIROC suit fabric is composed of thousands of nano-cameras and monitors. The microscopic cameras send a video signal to the monitors on the opposite side of the suit, producing the effect of a walking flat screen- showing only the background behind the figure in the suit- rendering him invisible. Check out the SCIROC suit and other advanced technology in the spy thriller Ghost Trail. Available on Amazon in ebook or paperback.